The Alberto house in Biñan

Alberto – Alonzo House, originally uploaded by Arnaldos’ shutter.

In a recent visit to the Alberto house in Biñan. I was awed by its beauty but at the same time regret its present condition. This classic stone house displays the prominence and style of the family that has occupied it for more than 200 years. You could feel by observing the house that the occupants are no ordinary Filipinos, add to this is its ideal location,  right at the heart of  Biñan, on its left is the municipio and Iglesia, in front is the rotonda and plaza.

With its solid built, utilizing the most durable construction materials, the  Alberto’s bought the best their finances could afford during those days. Its no wonder that this house has stood the test of time. However, Its unfortunate that no matter how strong a house is built it would eventually, if not well preserve succumb to deterioration. This house has seen its better days. Below is a brief history of the owner of this wonderful ‘bahay na bato’

Jose Alberto an uncle of Rizal, had been educated in British India, spending eleven years in a Calcutta missionary school. This was the result of an acquaintance which his father had made with an English naval officer who visited the Philippines about 1820, the author of “An Englishman’s Visit to the Philippines.” Lorenzo Alberto, the grandfather, himself spoke English and had English associations.

The great Binan bridge had been built under Lorenzo Alberto’s supervision, and for services to the Spanish nation during the expedition to Cochin-China-probably liberal contributions of money-he had been granted the title of Knight of the Order of Isabel the Catholic, but by the time this recognition reached him he had died, and the patent was made out to his son.

An episode well known in the village-its chief event, if one might judge from the conversation of the inhabitants-was a visit which a governor of Hongkong had made there when he was a guest in the home of Alberto. Many were the tales told of this distinguished Englishman, who was Sir John Bowring, the notable polyglot and translator into English of poetry in practically every one of the dialects of Europe. His achievements along this line had put him second or third among the linguists of the century. He was also interested in history, and mentioned in his Binan visit that the Hakluyt Society, of which he was a Director, was then preparing to publish an exceedingly interesting account of the early Philippines that did more justice to its inhabitants than the regular Spanish historians. Here Rizal first heard of Morga, the historian, whose book he in after years made accessible to his countrymen. A desire to know other languages than his own also possessed him and he was eager to rival the achievements of Sir John Bowring.

In his book entitled “A Visit to the Philippine Islands,” which was translated into Spanish by Mr. Jose del Pan, a liberal editor of Manila, Sir John Bowring gives the following account of his visit to Rizal’s uncle:

“We reached Binan before sunset …. First we passed between files of youths, then of maidens; and through a triumphal arch we reached the handsome dwelling of a rich mestizo, whom we found decorated with a Spanish order, which had been granted to his father before him. He spoke English, having been educated at Calcutta, and his house-a very large one-gave abundant evidence that he had not studied in vain the arts of domestic civilization. The furniture, the beds, the table, the cookery, were all in good taste, and the obvious sincerity of the kind reception added to its agreeableness. Great crowds were gathered together in the square which fronts the house of Don Jose Alberto.”

I consider my visit to this beautiful bahay na bato - a pilgrimage of sorts. I only can imagine how beautiful the town was during its hey days. So close to us here in the south metro yet unknown to many. In almost all areas of the town I found reminders of its inspiring past. Such lovely old houses, I don’t mind spending the whole afternoon feasting my eyes on these gems.

I consider myself fortunate that in my time I’ve visited this historic place. I noticed that not too many people are aware of its role in our political evolution – I’ve actually spoke with several Biñense, most were disinterested – worst they don’t know its history. Binan should promote and educate its people on what it was once so they can be proud of the history and culture of the historic town.

Read my other articles about the Alberto’s and their endangered casa [ here, here, here & here]

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26 responses to “The Alberto house in Biñan

  • JHENG

    MY HUSBAND MOTHER IS NAMED LUZ JACOB ALBERTO LIVED AT STA MESA MANILA,ARE THEY RELATED?

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  • pransis

    Kuya, I have used the photo above for a blog entry discussing the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s news article today (March 25, 2011) regarding the Alberto House. Your ownership of the photo will be acknowledged accordingly. Salamat po!

    • De AnDA

      @ Pransis – No problem. I have other pics on this site I took during my visits there. You can use them for your write ups.

  • De AnDA

    @ Manuel – I’m not really sure, the best person to ask is Gerardo “Gerry” Alberto. He seem to be the only direct descendant left in Binan. Here are the complete names: Zoilo Cortazar Alberto, Pilar Marco Alberto. Hope this helps. Never heard of Jorge.

    • Manuel Alberto

      How can I get in touch w/ him? If his grandmom’s name was Sofia Cortaza Vda de Alberto then I was in his house half a century ago.

      • De AnDA

        @ Manuel – Last time we spoke was about a year ago when I inspected the house after the Ondoy typhoon. Never heard from him again. He’s known to the shopkeepers around your ancestors house. I’m sure he won’t be impossible to get in touch with.

      • tintin ampil

        Hi. Zoilo Sr.’s parents are Lorenzo Alberto and Sofia Cortazar. My maternal grandmother, Pilar Cortazar Alberto is one of their children.

  • CHARMMY ALBERTO

    Hi! My name is Charmmy Alberto & currently live in the US. I learned about our relation to Rizal when I was still a young kid. I googled myself & found out about the Alberto House in Binan. Does anyone know the exact address of this house? My family & I will be in the Philippines this coming August & planning to see the house.

    • De AnDA

      @ Charmmy – The house is right in the middle of the busy Binan town (just ask to be brought to the “bayan” or the “municipio”, its right across). its impossible to miss :)

      • Manuel Alberto

        My name is Manuel Alberto III. I am Charmmy Alberto’s dad. My grandfather was Manuel Alberto I who died during WW II. I have heard about Zoilo, Jorge and Pilar Alberto. I actually met one Pilar Alberto so many years ago when I was a small boy. I wud like to know the names of the parents of Zoilo Sr so I can determine if we are distant relatives. Thank you.

  • Bogs

    I envy you. You had the chance to tour the house and meet the owner.

  • blogger

    I was google-ing hrough the net to find a nice piece for my fourth graders to debate about, regarding culture, as a class activity, when i saw the photos in your blog. From the column that Prof. Ambeth Ocampo last June, he mentioned the deterioration of the house due to an issue which the government cannot resolve for some loose funding. Getting to see one person who have been to the Alberto house two years before the reported deterioration, perhaps it would be quite helpful if I could have some information I could use to deepen the lesson for my little girls. thanks.

    • De AnDA

      @ blogger – If you want the pictures that I took I’ll try to send them hopefully this weekend. The house is the last of its kind in Binan, perhaps in the whole Laguna, just imagine a house visited by a British Ambassador at a time when Binan was not as busy as it is now. Same house where Rizals mom spent some of her childhood! Its sad that we lost this house.

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  • filipineses09

    Thanks for this post again!

    Now that I follow your ‘pilgrimages’ I feel less guilty that I have left a country whose heritage is to this day undermined. Gathering from you, I’m enriching my stash of invisible priceless wealth.

    Thank you for quoting Jose Alberto’s education in British India during the first quarter of the 19th century and Sir John Bowring’s visit to Binan when Vancouver where I now live–and whose culture, of course, is predominantly British–was still First Nations. Such episodes fortify the bank of nationhood I carry and from which I declare who I am when called on to talk of my culture and history.

    I know exactly how you feel as you had expressed in the last paragraph. Your sentiment mirrors mine, a sadness that pricks me when I encounter Filipinos who have no idea of their identity as a race, whose culture and history out-textures most those of the New World where most now ‘serve’, where their or our identity has since been reduced to ‘work-titles’ or trade.

    Such thin identity easily renders most as fearful and thus open to discrimination or worse, abuse because they’re not aware of what they are as a people. Or it can push them to creep away to anonymity.

    I wish as you had written in this post, more Binanenses would appreciate their invaluable wealth—to ask of these for all Filipinos is beyond thought. But I suppose we’re asking lessons in values that have since become impossible to inculcate. Where and when did our valuing of things go awry?

    I extend my gratitude and kudos to you again for unflagging on your ‘pilgrimage’, waving your pennant embossed with pride “withonespast” and for sharing each treasure you uncover.

  • Pepe

    The owner of the house is Mr. Gerry Alberto (a grandnephew of Rizal). He doesn’t live there anymore, but if I remember right, he holds office there from Tuesday to Friday, 4:00 PM till evening.

  • Lorisse

    Hi! I’d like to know how i could contact the owner of the house. We’d like to have a shoot there and talk to the locals for our school project for video production.

    Thank you!

  • nold

    Hey Ral – The gentleman was Don Jose Alberto [adorned by the "Knight of the Order of Isabel the Catholic" pendant], the rest are probably his daughters & sisters, I can’t be certain but I remember that the portraits had names on it, I don’t even know if one of those female portraits belongs to Teodora, Jose Alberto’s half sister, Rizal mother. i remember seeing the signature of the painter, he tagged his pieces with ,” ex discípulo de Luna” – which was kinda odd.

    • jessie

      how do you know that jose alberto is just a half sister of teodora….until now it is a debate….

      • jessie

        a half brother of teodora alonzo…..some says that jose alberto just pretend just to be a legal son of their father in order to get the “Knight of the Order of Isabel the Catholic” pendant….i became curious about this thing because this is the secrets of rizal’s life..one question is why rizal need to live in his tita while studying in binan if their family has the alberto’s mansion.

  • Ral Paguergan

    Pax! I just want to know who was the wife and children of Jose Alberto Alonso. Can you name them for me? On the first picture, there were several portaits of ladies in big picture frames, who are they? Thanks…

  • Hannah Galang

    Good day! I’m an Interior Design student from Assumption College, Makati. I’m currently taking a subject called Restoration and Renovation and I have chosen to work on the Alberto House in Binan. I went to NHI to trace the floor plan already. Problem now is, I have to interview people who are related to the owner of the house to get some background on the house. Would you know who I should talk to? It would be a big help to me. Thanks in advanced! God Bless :)

  • nold

    I’m guessing your from QC – head to south, exit on Southwoods. Pass tollgate go left proceed to the arch. You won’t be far away. Ask people where the municipio is and there you’ll see the Alberto-Alonso house right beside it.

    If your still unsure PM me and I’ll give you my contacts or that of a friend who resides in San Pedro to help you find it.

  • Traveler on Foot

    Very interesting story about the Rizals. I’ve learned about the relationship of the Albertos and Rizals from Prof. Ambeth Ocampo.

    I wanted to see the Alberto House myself. Will you be kind enough to tell me on how to get there? Thanks.

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